Sun 12 – Sat 18 Oct
Still in Madrid, I awoke the morning of domingo (Sunday) feeling surprisingly un-hungover despite my drinks the night before. I did have a slight tummy trouble, I think this was a result of just getting used to the local bugs rather than a reaction to the alcohol. I decided on a chill out day with a break from the museums and galleries although I did end up doing a quick pop into the Museo Municipal to see a fascinating selection of maps and models showing the development of Madrid through the ages. This day was about lots of reading and coffee including inevitably hanging out at Mama Ines cafe. I had been trying generally to resist having a siesta during the day as I did not want to waste holiday time. But I had succumbed to the appeal of the menu del dia again (the cheap three course midday meal provided by most restaurants) with this one including one of my favourite dishes, Arroz a la Cubana (rice, tomato sauce, fried egg, and fried banana) – sounds awful but delicious. This meal combined with lots of wine meant an afternoon snooze was inevitable. By Sunday evening I was quite awake and ended up having a big drinking session hopping from bar to bar.
Waking up on lunes (Monday), I found I had far more of a hangover than the day before. Indeed sleep had been difficult with a drink-induced semi lucidness all night long and lots of needing to go the toilet. This day had been the one I had planned to venture out of Madrid. I had lots of recommendations of places to go including the Escorial, Segovia, Salamanca, and Toledo. But I decided just to chill in the city. And indeed I did not get to any of these places – next time. I was starting to think about going back to London doing things like looking in my diary to see what was coming and starting to pack my bag. I went to the Caixa Forum which is a very modern building that had a good exhibition on mythology and the development of civilisation in the Mediterranean. I had also planned to visit the Museo Thyssen Bornemisza but it had a massive queue because it turned out on Mondays it was only open four hours and was free to get in. I decided to return the next day. I also paid a visit to the Plaza Major, basically Madrid’s centre, but it was simply a big and disappointing space. Food and more wine meant siesta time again. The evening was chilling around again though, of course, I ended at Mama Ines though I decided to skip the wine on this night as part of a semi-detox.
And so my final day arrived, martes (Tuesday). I went out to the Thyssen and paid 10 Euros to get in but it was far less manic than the day before. The collection is very impressive with some major art especially two magnificent Frans Hals paintings (he is such an under-rated artist) and a wonderful selection of modern stuff. I suppose it is quite tasteless in a way representing the hobby of a rich family when the money could perhaps have been used so much better to deal with poverty. The biggest disappointment was the dreariness of the large collection of nineteenth century American art. The cafe was quite la-di-da and staffed with attitude. I then popped to the Museum of Romanticism which is a townhouse recreated in mid nineteenth century style; small but elegant and intriguing (though the staff could be a bit friendlier). I had a mini-siesta then went on a walkabout including some shops that really are as good as some art galleries and museums. I treated myself in the evening to my favourite tapas, patatas bravas, followed up by my goodbye cake, coffee, wine at Mama Ines.
I did not really sleep well through Tuesday night – does anyone ever on the night before they go home and have got an early start? Lots of waking at intervals to double-check the time. So on miercoles (Wednesday) I was up around 7.45 and did the long walk to Nuevos Ministerios; if I come again then I will do a taxi to and from this station. I had a problem-free metro journey though it was very busy. Check in and security was very bureaucratic with lots of queueing but this meant the time went quick. Another perfectly decent and uneventful flight back to London. I had been allocated a window seat which I hate, I much prefer the aisle seat so I can easily move about, but I was determined not to pay pay for a seat of my choice. An easy journey back to Victoria from Gatwick and round to Dave’s to drop off his presents and some of my washing. Dave was busy at work so I did not get a chance to see him. It was then over to check on mum, finishing my unpacking, and refilling my meds for the week ahead. I spent the rest of the night with mum. I took her out for a curry as a ‘celebration’ for my return then we watched Coronation Street together. By 8pm I was flagging so headed to bed for an early night.
So, overall, what did I feel about my Madrid holiday? It is a good place to visit not least for the wonderful art collections as well as to soak up the atmosphere and history of Spain. The weather was a bit crap but it was October and I think we actually had the same as London, a mix of sunshine, cloud and rain. I did miss the beach and some countryside, in a lot of ways I had done an extended city break and it did not feel totally like a holiday. One of the things I realise on reflection is that it is quite a claustrophobic city with some beautiful old buildings but all close together – perhaps a result of not being bombed during World War Two (though they did have the civil war) and being frozen in time by Franco. However, one of the big pluses was that I got the chance to look at some very hot Spanish guys with their wonderful rugged masculinity and hairiness.
A big theme of my week away was reading. I did not get through all the books I took away. But I did manage to get through ‘Lost Luggage’ by Jordi Punti. I picked this up for 50p in a charity shop largely attracted by its endorsements by luminaries such as Colm Toibin. It is about four brothers with the same father but different mothers and the brothers do not know each other exists until their father goes missing. A good story though implausible. Fitting in with my holiday, it is ultimately very much about life in Francoist Spain always being more about the father rather than sons. But it went to pieces at the end, despite having an interesting twist on father’s life, by becoming an adventure romp and I was totally unimpressed with the way all the sins of the father were forgiven by his children who he had basically neglected and emotionally abused. A slightly uncomfortable book also in that the mothers’ characters were simply ignored. I like to use a holiday as an opportunity to mix books and so in parallel I read the collected short stories of Paul Bowles. His most famous book is ‘The Sheltering Sky’ which is far more disturbing in print than on screen (though it is a very good film). His short stories are highly recommended but with warning that some are quite shocking. He seems to have lived most of his life in and placed many of his stories in Tangier where every dodgy American or European seemed to have lived or visited during the 50s and 60s. It is interesting to see how his stories placed in chronological order changed for the worst as he got older with many earlier ones set in Central and South America then an increased number set in Thailand (hmmm) plus a general drop in imagination as time progressed. This decline can be seen in his move to letters as short stories and stopping even bothering to write in paragraphs. I have also started on another gay classic ‘Blackbird’ by Larry Duplechan which was written in 1986 though set in early 70s and is a comedy about a young black gay man coming out, discovering his sexuality, etc. There does feel like some inter-action with the play ‘Beautiful Thing’, it might be interesting to see which came first?
Unsurprisingly fitness was not a major issue during my holiday though I did lots of walking and I generally ate less as I always do when I am not at work. I did manage to get back to the gym on Thursday morning doing 45 minutes of good weights workout. And I went back to my jog-run on Saturday. I didn’t feel like it would go well but I came in at best time ever 36 mins 43 secs over the usual route (twice round St James Park and once round Green Park). It is interesting that we put an emphasis on the way we feel but it does not always lead to the expected outcome. The same is certainly true for when I go to the HIV clinic – how I feel may have no relation to what my viral load or CD4 count turns out to be. I did weigh myself first thing in the morning on Thursday and came in at 13-9 which shows I certainly had not put on weight during my week away and may even have lost weight. For languages, my use of Duolingo and just being there makes me feel like I have improved my Spanish. I did go and see a German film on Thursday as part of the London Film Festival. I did see several Festival films last year but did not think they were very good overall. ‘Phoenix’ was about a Jewish woman who returns from a concentration camp and searches for her husband. She finds him but he is in denial about her having been the one who betrayed her. Indeed he does not even recognise her (real or put on?). Interwoven is a possible lesbian relationship. An OK film but it does raise the big issue about how people handle dealing with returning to normality after wars and other crises including how they deal with those who betrayed them either actively or via their inaction. Thursday evening I was knacked again, perhaps I do try to do too much, so I spent a quiet evening in keeping an eye on mum.
Back to work on Friday though I had been dealing with work e-mails whilst on leave – not answering but filing and deleting to simply keep on top of things. I worked at home in the morning getting tons done processing all the e-mails that I had received whilst away. I was waiting in with mum for the company to come and do the annual servicing of the boiler (and her beloved gas fire). The engineer was due any time 8am – 1pm but failed to turn up completely despite two chaser phone calls at 11 and 12. So I went off to work stopping off first for a quick coffee at my favourite little coffee shop in Vauxhall. But they had no electricity so there was no nice coffee. This topped off a range of minor frustrations since returning from holiday. On Thursday I had problems with my Chromebook switching on and my brand new contactless card still won’t work on the underground. And being in work, even though just for one afternoon, made me feel like my holiday was a long time ago.
Saturday really was a very quiet day apart from my jog. Staying at Dave’s, I took him out to lunch for a catch up meal especially as we had not really had time together since I had returned from holiday. After visiting my favourite charity shops, I spent the afternoon proofreading a report for work whilst listening to the footie results come in (QPR play Liverpool tomorrow) – Dave was having one of his snoozes. I then got a load of reduced cost Sushi from Waitrose to feast on in front of the TV whilst watching Strictly and Doctor Who plus writing up my blog. Bed by 10, I can be such a lightweight.
Wonkers of the week:
- Owen Paterson – A bitter sacked environment minister calling for the repeal of the Climate Change Act, less wind farms, and the building of lots of small nuclear power stations. Be interesting to see if he gets any funding from the energy-petro-chemical complex.
- Lord Freud – The minister for disabled people who says employers should be able to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage. OK he also says it should be topped up by the state but can you imagine the number of companies that would take advantage of this.
- Robert Heath Heating – They have the contract to do maintenance work with our Housing Association but their service is very poor – this week they did not even turn up for an appointment and failed to phone to say they would not be turning up.